There is a very broad definition of health which encompasses physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. At William Russell, we provide international health insurance for expats living overseas. But what do we actually insure? By which we mean: what is health?
That’s what we’re here to answer for you today, to understand why you actually need international health insurance.
What is health?
Health is a complex and multi faceted concept that encompasses both physical and mental well-being. While physical health refers to the absence of physical diseases and conditions, mental health refers to a person’s emotional and psychological state. Both are equally important for leading a fulfilling life.
So what is the difference between physical and mental health, and how does insurance help to protect it?
What is physical health?
Physical health refers to the overall state of your physical well-being including the absence of disease or injury. Maintaining physical health helps keep the body functioning and reduces the risk of developing ongoing health conditions.
There are three key factors to physical health:
- Physical fitness is your ability to take part in physical activity. This includes cardiovascular health, strength, flexibility, and body composition. Maintaining physical fitness can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
- Proper nutrition is also essential for physical health. A balanced diet is one that provides the necessary vitamins and minerals for optimal body function. Meanwhile, drinking enough water and limiting processed foods and sugar can also help maintain good health.
- Absence of illness or injury is another aspect of physical health. This includes the absence of diseases or injuries that impact your daily activities and cause discomfort or pain.
How to be healthy
Staying physically healthy is important, as it can help ward off disease and reduce your risk of injury. Here are five top tips on how to be healthy, wherever you are in the world:
1/ Eat a balanced diet
Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, and limit your intake of processed foods, saturated fats, and sugars. Be sure to get enough vitamins and minerals by taking a multivitamin supplement.
2/ Exercise regularly
Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Choose activities that you enjoy and that fit your lifestyle, such as walking, biking, swimming, yoga, or dancing.
3/ Get enough sleep
Getting enough restful sleep is just as important as physical activity when it comes to maintaining good health. Aim for at least seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night.
4/ Manage stress
Stress can have a negative impact on both physical and mental health, so it’s important to find healthy ways to manage it. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and any activity that helps you relax can help reduce stress levels.
5/ Visit your healthcare provider
Regular visits to your healthcare provider can help you identify any health problems early and get the necessary treatments. It’s also a great time to ask questions and learn more about how to stay healthy.
What is mental health?
Mental health describes a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Mental health is not just the absence of mental illness, but a state of overall well-being. People with good mental health are able to manage moods, cope with stress, think clearly, and communicate effectively.
Meanwhile, having poor mental health can leave a person feeling overwhelmed, sad, anxious or stressed. Poor mental health can also negatively affect a number of aspects in a person’s life, including work performance, relationships and engaging in unhealthy behaviours.
While there remains a stigma in society around mental health conditions, more so in some countries than others, mental health disorders are far from uncommon. A 2017 study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimated that 792 million people live with a mental health disorder, accounting for one in ten people globally (10.7%).
There are many different types of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, and eating disorders. Some require more intensive treatment than others, however all of these disorders can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life.
Mental health can be affected by a variety of factors, such as life experiences, genetics, illnesses, or the environment. It is important to seek help for mental health issues, as many mental health conditions can be treated with therapy, medication, or lifestyle changes.
What is stress?
Stress is a reaction to an event or situation that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain. Stress is a normal part of life, experienced by everyone at some point. However, long-term, or chronic stress can lead to serious health problems.
Stress is often caused by external factors such as work, school, or relationships. Stress can manifest itself in physical, mental, and emotional ways. Physically, stress can cause headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. Mentally, stress can lead to difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation, and irritability. While emotionally, stress can lead you to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and depressed.
Along with short-term effects such as sleeplessness, stress can also have a negative effect on long-term health if it’s not managed properly. Chronic stress can lead to a weakened immune system, increased risk of depression and anxiety, digestive problems, and an increased risk of heart disease.
In order to manage stress, it’s important to identify the source of the stress and to develop coping strategies. This may include exercising, talking to a friend or family member, or engaging in activities such as meditation or yoga. It is also important to make time for relaxation and to practise stress management techniques such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
How to improve mental health
Here are some simple first steps you can take to help improve your mental health:
1/ Get active
Physical activity is not only great for your body but it can also help to improve your mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, a natural chemical in the brain that helps to reduce stress and improve mood. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day to help improve mental health.
2/ Eat healthily
Eating healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean proteins can help to make you feel better both physically and mentally. Avoiding processed foods and sugary snacks can also help to reduce stress.
3/ Get enough rest
Lack of sleep can cause fatigue, irritability, and mood swings. To get the best sleep, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day and avoid screens before bedtime.
4/ Perform mindfulness
Mindfulness is a practice that helps to keep your mind in the present moment. It involves focusing on your current thoughts and feelings, as well as practising breathing exercises. Take part in mindfulness can help to reduce stress, improve concentration, and increase self-awareness.
5/ Connect with others
Building relationships with family and friends can help to improve mental health. Having people to rely on and talk to when feeling stressed or overwhelmed can help to reduce anxiety and depression. Spending time with people you trust and enjoy can also improve your overall mood.
What is ‘public health’?
Public health refers to a nation’s efforts to protect and improve the health of individuals, ensuring everyone has access to the resources they need to stay healthy. This includes making sure the quality of public healthcare meets the highest possible standards.
On the ground, public health systems work to prevent illness and disease through education, environmental protection, immunisation programs, research, and other measures. It also works to identify health risks within the community and design interventions to reduce these risks.
Public health also has a global impact, as it works to control and prevent diseases and health problems that cross national boundaries.
Which are the healthiest countries?
Not all healthcare systems in the world are created equal. Likewise, some parts of a country will put you more at risk of catching certain diseases than others.
There are a number of metrics that attempt to calculate the overall health of countries worldwide. Here we will focus on the two most in depth: the Bloomberg Global Health Index and the Global Health Security Index.
The last Bloomberg Global Health Index was taken in 2020, taking into account a number of metrics including: health risks (prevalence of tobacco use, high blood pressure and obesity), availability of clean water, average life expectancy, malnutrition and causes of death.
According to this metric, the healthiest countries in the world are:
By comparison, the Global Health Security Index assesses the nation’s ability to maintain population health in the event of a pandemic or other extreme biological event. The index takes 37 different factors into account, including: preventions, detection and reporting, rapid response rate, compliance with international health standards and environmental risk.
According to the Global Health Security Index 2021, the healthiest countries in the world are:
How can insurance actually protect your health?
Insurance plays a crucial role in safeguarding health, by covering the costs of medical treatment and providing financial support during times of illness or injury.
International health insurance can help protect the health of you and your family while living abroad. These are just few ways you could benefit:
1/ Access to best quality care
Quality of healthcare varies greatly across the globe. But this should never stop you from getting the medical attention you need.
International health insurance not only gives you access to private healthcare facilities, it will also enable you to get specialised drugs and treatment that may not be available on the public health system. And, if the treatment you need is not available in your resident country, your health insurance will cover the cost to send you to another country with better facilities.
2/ Avoid long waits at public health facilities
Even in more developed countries, waiting times for public healthcare can be long. In the most extreme circumstances, long waiting times could be the difference between life and death.
Health insurance can give you the ability to bypass these waiting times, and get access to the medical care you need, sooner rather than later.
3/ Help facing poor public health
Low water quality, limited access to nutritional resources and unsanitary conditions makes life in some countries a greater risk to your health.
Poor public health can lead to preventable diseases becoming widespread, harmful and even deadly. Having access to private healthcare, including vaccinations and immunisations, will give you the best chance of staying healthy.
4/ Support with mental health
Access to mental health services is not a given all over the globe, and is rarely offered on public health systems without long waiting periods.
Moving abroad can take a huge toll on your mental health. Having access to mental health benefits through a private health insurance provider can help give you the support you need to settle happily into your new home.
5/ Treatment and monitoring for underlying medical conditions
Managing long-term, chronic or underlying health conditions* while living abroad can be stressful, especially if you can’t communicate with your doctor in your first language.
With international health insurance, you’ll have peace of mind that any treatment, medication or check-ups you need will be made available for the duration of your stay.
*Pre-existing conditions are typically not covered.
Wherever you move, go with total peace of mind
At William Russell, we have 30 years of helping expats find the best places in the world to move abroad and settle into their new lives overseas by providing world-class global health insurance.
Making the move to another country can be challenging. But no matter where you go, you can take one thing off your mind. William Russell offers international health insurance that can cover you for everything from minor injuries to long hospital stays, and we even offer medical evacuations to patients who require treatment in other countries.